A Loudoun County prosecutor has asked a judge to revoke the bond of a woman accused of forcing two of her daughters to take turns riding in a car trunk during an eight-plus-hour trip from Alabama to Virginia.
Cheryl Ann Brown, 38, has been charged with abuse and cruelty to children in connection with the incident. She has been out of jail since July 8, when she was released on $5,000 bond by authorities in Stafford County, where she lives. Loudoun prosecutors want Brown back in jail to await trial but did not say why.
Brown was arraigned yesterday before a Loudoun judge, who agreed to listen to arguments Monday on the bond issue.
According to authorities, Brown had the two girls, ages 8 and 10, alternate riding in the trunk during the July 1 road trip because her rental car, a four-door Nissan Sentra, was crowded with three other passengers and a dog.
The other travelers were Brown's 12-year-old daughter, a 12-year-old family friend and a baby in a car seat, all of whom had accompanied Brown on a five-day trip to see relatives in Fort Payne, Ala. The girls who rode in the trunk were not physically injured.
At the conclusion of the trip, authorities said, she dropped off the three older girls at the Aldie home of their father and Brown's ex-husband, Curtis Schoonmaker. The next day, the girls told Schoonmaker about their ride, and he alerted authorities, they have said. Cheryl Brown had originally been charged under the name Schoonmaker, but during yesterday's hearing both sides agreed that her legal name is Brown.
Wearing a long blue dress with a sailor collar and carrying a straw hat with a large navy bow tied around it, Brown said nothing during her short hearing yesterday. Afterward, she and attorney Eric Strom declined to comment. Leaving the courthouse, she used the large hat to shield her face from a TV camera.
Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittmann also declined to comment on the hearing or on the motion to revoke bond.
Meanwhile, court documents shed new light on the circumstances that led to the two felony charges against Brown.
On Wednesday, a Loudoun judge issued a preliminary protective order against Brown, barring her from unsupervised visits with Schoonmaker's three daughters, he said. According to a petition filed by a Loudoun social services official requesting the order, Brown told investigators the children rode double-buckled on the Alabama trip, but never in the car trunk. She said she had not rented the Sentra until the day she returned from Alabama and had instead driven her own car, a Honda CR-V, on the trip.
An invoice from a Thrifty Car Rental in Stafford, however, showed that Brown had in fact rented the Nissan on June 27 and returned it July 1, according to the petition. The children also told investigators about the two girls riding in the trunk, it states.
According to the petition, the Loudoun Department of Social Services also asked the judge to remove the 8-month-old daughter from Brown's care. Yesterday, that child's father, Kevin Brown, said a judge ruled that the Loudoun agency did not have jurisdiction in the matter, because the baby and parents all live in Stafford.
Cheryl and Kevin Brown were married in December 2003 but have been legally separated since March, he said. Kevin Brown said that as of yesterday, the baby remained in her mother's care.
He declined to say whether he believes the baby should be removed or bond revoked.
"My position on it right now is that I'm going to try to make sure all the people who have power to do something about this have all the information they need to have," he said.
This incident was at least the third time in less than two months that local women have faced criminal charges after allegedly putting their children in car trunks.